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A Look at Southwest Airlines Mission Statement: 10 Key Takeaways

Southwest Airlines is one of the most well-known commercial airline companies around. From its advertising tagline, “You are now free to move around the country,” to its iconic red-blue-and-yellow plane paint job, it is one of the most recognizable in the air today. But beyond the catchy slogans, low prices, and other deals lies a company that is dedicated to excellence in air travel service. Its mission and vision statements are clear evidence of this commitment.

So, let’s take a look at the mission, purpose, and vision statements for Southwest Airlines and identify 10 key takeaways.

Southwest’s Mission, Purpose, and Vision Statements

A company’s mission, purpose, and vision statements are critical. They are the “elevator pitch” for a company, a chance to encapsulate in just a few words what it does, what it stands for, and how it seeks to enter the hearts and minds of its customers.

Each statement also serves a unique purpose. A mission statement outlines the primary activity the company wishes to accomplish. A purpose statement gives its reason for conducting business. Finally, a vision statement demonstrates the forward-facing goals the company strives toward. Here are Southwest’s mission, purpose, and vision statements:

  • The mission of Southwest Airlines is the dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
  • The purpose of Southwest Airlines is to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.
  • The vision of Southwest Airlines is to be the world’s most loved, most efficient, and most profitable airline.

10 Key Takeaways

1. The focus is on customer service, not just air travel.
If you were to start a business today that made widgets, your mission statement might read something like, “To make the highest quality and lowest-cost widgets in the world.” That would be perfectly adequate – it states exactly what you’re about, and makes your goals clear to potential customers and investors.

Sometimes simpler is better. However, with Southwest Airlines, air travel is conspicuously missing from the mission statement. The stated mission focuses instead on delivering high-quality customer service.

2. The core values are embedded in the mission statement.
Every company needs a set of core values to guide its business practices and market activities. These will almost always have the end-user in mind. Southwest’s mission statement embeds the core values of warmth, friendliness, pride, and company spirit. These are the attitudes with which Southwest’s employees will deliver its intended mission to its customers.

With the primary goal being “the highest quality of customer service,” these core values describe what that service will look like:  it will be warm and inviting, it will be friendly, there will be a sense of pride when delivering it, and the employees will also possess strong company spirit.

3. Ownership is given to each employee through those core values.
There is no distinction made in the mission statement as to who it applies to. Everyone, from the CEO to the frontline worker, is responsible for upholding the values given in the mission statement. It is vital that a company ensures that every single employee has bought into its guiding mantras. Every individual who makes contact with a customer or stakeholder is, at that moment, the face of the company and bears the responsibility for representing the company well.

4. Its purpose is to bring people together through connections.
Once again, the goal and purpose for Southwest Airlines’ existence is not air travel (though it does come into play later on). Its purpose is “to connect people.” This kind of statement looks beyond the mere products it sells or the tangible services it provides. Instead, it looks deeper into the service behind the service, and creates an emotional connection for the day-to-day operations of the company.

5. Air travel is merely the method of achieving its purpose.
Here is where air travel comes into play: not as its mission, but as the mechanism by which it can deliver on its mission. Its main goal is to bring people together, and the way it does that is through air travel. Here is where we get to what it believes sets it apart from the competition:

  • First, its service will be friendly. This lines up nicely with the core values from its mission statement. For many, flying is either stressful, a hassle, or a necessary inconvenience, and anyone who has had a poor airport experience knows that unfriendly staff can only make things worse. By promising a friendly experience from its employees, Southwest is painting a picture of a pleasant flight for all.
  • Next, its service will be reliable. Reliability is crucial for an airline, from the airplane itself to the ticketing system to the luggage trolley. When people fly, they expect a turnkey experience with no bumps in the road. By promising to be reliable, Southwest tells its customers that it will do everything within its power to mitigate and prevent problems before they happen and to ensure that everything goes smoothly.
  • Finally, it commits to a low cost. These days, everyone is on a constant hunt for a good deal and will bend over backward just to save a few dollars. By removing hidden fees and providing honest and straightforward pricing, Southwest presents its airline as a good value for its passengers’ money.

6. There are no limits on what it delivers for each customer (what’s important in the customer’s life).
Ever heard the saying, “The customer is always right”? Southwest lives by that motto, focusing on what is important to the customer rather than itself. People fly for a number of different reasons, and they are all important at the moment, so paying careful attention to what the customer needs is paramount.

Remember, you may think you have the perfect product or service, but if it does not resonate with customers and result in sales, it’s all pointless anyway. By meeting a clear and specific need in someone else’s life, you build up value for yourself in its eyes. This focus is vital to Southwest’s delivery on its promise to its passengers.

7. The customer perspective on these statements is critical.
We can look at Southwest’s vision statement in two ways: from the customer perspective and from the point of view of the business itself. Southwest wants its customers to be loyal to its airline and to see it as a reliable choice. It wants its passengers to praise its friendly service and place a high value on the low cost of its pricing structure.

This incorporates various aspects of the mission and vision statements together, but the overall intent is that Southwest wants a strong customer base that keeps flying with it over time.

8. The business perspective on these statements is equally important.
From the business perspective, delivering on its core values will keep it in business. First and foremost, this means providing the friendly service it has committed to. It also needs to perform with efficiency and profitability (friendliness is all well and good, but if it doesn’t lead to profits, then changes need to be made).

By finding the perfect mix of keeping costs down while maintaining high standards of service, Southwest intends to raise the bar for other airlines to strive toward.

9. It aims at large goals.
Southwest aims to be the world’s best airline, pure and simple. It specifically mentions service, efficiency, and profitability, but those are all aspects of the superiority it strives for. The end-goal for the company is to never settle for second best.

10. There is tight alignment between all three statements.
The strong mission, purpose, and vision statements are tightly aligned. They may address different aspects of the corporate culture through each statement, but a stable and forward-thinking company will ensure that the present goals and future goals remain in sync, as well as its intended pathway into the future.

As we’ve seen, the core values from the mission statement help it achieve the terms of its purpose statement, which will propel it to reaching its larger corporate vision.


The next time you fly, pay attention to the mission statements of the airlines offering flights in your area. You will get a clear sense of why it is in business, and you will either see what an airliner wants to provide you or what it wants to get out of you. Southwest’s goals for your flight are excellent service, a reasonable price, and a loyal returning customer the next time you take to the skies.

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